If you are injured and are involved in litigation either with a responsible third party or through workers’ compensation, it is likely that you will be required to undergo an independent medical evaluation. Despite the name, these examinations are far from independent. Rather, the defendant or workers’ compensation insurance company hires a doctor to perform a one time examination that will then be used against you in regard to your claim.
Many doctors earn large sums of money doing significant amounts of these so called “independent” medical examinations on behalf of defendants and insurance companies. The examination may appear at first to be similar to a visit with your treating doctor, however, this is not the case. There is no doctor/patient relationship with an IME doctor. The IME doctor will not advise you of his opinions, provide recommendations for treatment to you, or refer you for additional treatment or testing. Instead, the doctor will prepare a report containing his findings and submit that report to the insurance company or defense counsel in your case. Because the doctors are paid such large sums of money by the defendants and their insurers to perform these examinations, we often find that the doctors perform these examinations looking for ways to help the insurance company and hurt your case. One way that doctors do this is by performing what are commonly known as Waddell’s Tests. These are tests used to determine whether a claimant is exaggerating or magnifying symptoms. Doctors will look for things such as superficial and diffuse tenderness, overreaction, or regional weakness or sensory changes that deviate from accepted anatomy. Additionally, when a doctor performs a certain test that is positive, they will later attempt to recreate the same test while the patient is distracted in order to determine whether the test is, in fact, truly positive. For these reasons, it is important that injured parties be made aware in advance of the examination of the tricks these so called independent doctors will use in order to assist the insurance company in fighting against their claim.
In addition to the tests performed by doctors to determine whether an injured party is exaggerating or malingering with regard to their accident related symptoms, doctors will also observe you both before and after the examination and attempt to work these observations into their findings. For example, if a patient walks with a limp as a result of an injury, a doctor will attempt to observe the patient walking to and from the examining room or to and from their vehicle before or after the examination in order to determine if the limp remains in place. Again, it is important for injured parties to realize that the examination does not start or stop only in the examining room and that they must be “on their toes” with regard to all interactions that they may have with the doctor hired by the insurance company.
The key to successfully navigating the independent medical examination is to be honest with the doctor about your problems and limitations, and to be honest about the symptoms that you experience throughout the examination. This will assist in making sure that the doctor gets a true picture of your injuries and how the injuries impact you.
If you are not yet represented by counsel and get notification that an insurer involved in your case is requesting an independent medical examination, you should consult an attorney immediately. Failing to do so can have a significant detrimental effect on any claim that you may be pursuing. Our team of lawyers at ACA Law have the experience necessary to assist you in navigating through all issues surrounding independent medical examinations. Please call us at 570-348-0200 for a free consultation today. We fight for what’s right.